Wednesday, March 8, 2017


So we are three school days, only three, from the beginning of "the blessed event."

I woke up with a headache this morning. I hardly ever do that. But I hate this time of year.

Usually I am really good at seeing the strengths in kids' writings. I delight in kids' approximations.

But there are only three days until the test. And the writing seems so rough.

I start my day in fourth grade. Our nine year olds are finishing an essay. They have read two articles- one about Owen and Mzee, and one about a man who is a quadriplegic and has a service monkey. They also watched a video about two interdependent species. They loved the articles.

The writing, ummm, not so much. One of our best writers proudly shows me his conclusion:

In conclusion, both of these animal relationships are different in many ways. They both were very interesting. I hope I could see these animal relationships in action some day so I could write a way, way better contrasting essay about these two relationships. 

I can't decide whether I should laugh or cry. There are only three days until the test.

Next I go to third grade. They have worked so hard on their writing. Have improved so much this year. But they have to type their essays. Some of the kids do fine. But some are really, really slow. Their lines poke along the page, and I despair of them ever having a paragraph on paper, let alone a full story or five paragraph essay.

They have recently learned to use dialogue. And they are really proud of it. They are not that good, though, at punctuating their dialogue. There are misplaced commas and quotation marks all over the place. Usually I would be able to celebrate and honor their approximations. But today I just wince. There are only three days until the test.

I have an intervention group in this class. One of my little guys has been gone for several days after tossing his cookies in the middle of the classroom. Reading has not come easy for him. And we have worked hard.

He is back today and greets me as I walk in the door. Wants to tell me about the story he is writing. A continuation of a story that they had just finished reading. T. tells a beautiful story, complete with details. But then he has to type. His first few sentences are about the family waking up, and having breakfast around the campfire. He wants to write that they had pancakes and sausage, but he cannot figure out how to spell sausage. He finally settles on pancakes and eggs. "I really like sausage," he says, "but I know how to spell eggs." Usually I would just tell him to spell the best he could, but not today. There are only three days until the test.

After lunch, I go up to fifth grade. I have another intervention group that comes out of this class. One of my little gals, M., is sitting in the front of the room, away from the class. She tells me that this is her office, that she wants to work alone where it's quiet. She proudly shows me how carefully she has annotated the prompt, circling words like journal and point of view. 

"And look, look what I did," she says, waving a piece of paper in front of me. She has written a whole page. She reads it aloud to me, and I can hear the pride in her voice. I read the prompt, and ask her to show me the different parts in her writing. "I did it," she says, "I did it." She points proudly to where she has covered each part of the prompt. She really did do it. I just wish she had used paragraphs, and perhaps a few periods in the first half of the text. There are only three days until the test.

Finally, I touch base with Y. She is the oldest of four girls, has a hard, hard home life. There is little joy. But this year, she has joined the literacy club, devouring graphic novels, one after another. And she's written, a lot. She's been so proud of the growth she has made in writing. The last few weeks I have seen a difference in her. All of the recent joy and pride are gone. "I'm not one of the smart kids, miss," she says. She leans back and draws designs on her hand with a brown sharpie. And I wonder how I can build her up again.

There are only three days until the test.

And I am so tired.

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